Sunday 21 April 2019

Shaped by the Story #10: To the Glory of God

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

The lordship of Christ and the glory of God – there could hardly be a better place to end our tour through some of the passages where the Bible tells its own story.

Paul wrote letters not narratives, but he draws on different parts of the biblical story as he writes to churches, and that story sometimes bubbles to the surface as it does in Philippians 2:5-11. Here, in the space of a few remarkable verses, we are taken from before the beginning of all things to the very end of all things. And at the heart of it is Jesus. Ultimately, it is this story of this one that shapes us – providing a pattern of thinking and living that is ours through being ‘in Christ’.

At the centre of the story stands the cross, Paul’s words here evoking the horror and shame associated with the public execution of criminals. And yet, it is that scandalous cross that was central to Christ’s own determination to press on to Jerusalem, showing the true nature of God’s self-giving love. And it is the cross that is central to understanding what it means to be a disciple, to follow in his footsteps in serving others – his death not only bringing about redemption but providing a model for our lives.

Even then, the cross is not the end of the story, for God raised Jesus to a place of highest status and assigned him a name that reflects his vindication, with the result that all will confess him ‘Lord’. Paul’s language here deliberately echoes Isaiah 45:22-23, with Christ receiving the glory God says is reserved for him alone. Beyond this, the confession would have carried political overtones, perhaps especially in Philippi, a colony of the Roman empire in which emperors were proclaimed as ‘Lord’. The church’s worship of Jesus as Lord not only limits the empire’s rule, but anticipates the confession that will be offered by the whole universe – the sovereignty of Christ over all things.

All of which has profound implications for the daily life of Christians in Philippi, and of Christians everywhere since, as we ‘work out’ our salvation, with God himself working in us ‘in order to fulfil his good purpose’ (2:12-13), concretely applied in our relations with each other and our integrity of witness in the world, where confessing him as Lord means committing to a way of life marked by his lordship.

And all for the glory of God.

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